Monday, June 30, 2008


Animated cartoon

Ben Burtt: WALL-E, an acronym for Waste Allocation Load Lifter – Earthclass type robot
Elissa Knight: EVE, another robot with an acronym for a name
Jeff Garlin: Captain of the good ship Axiom

Expectations not met makes for an unhappy experience.

Pixar’s track record of producing entertaining state-of-the-art animated CGI cartoons led me to believe this would be one more to add to the list of Knick Knack (the animated short film about the snowman trapped in a snow globe), Toy Story (the first ever first fully computer-generated feature film with Buzz and Woody), Finding Nemo (my all-time favourite with Marlin, Nemo and Dory), Ratatouille (with Remy and Linguini) and Cars.

Such is not the case.

The first half-hour is depressing with monochromatic browns of a world we would rather not see populated only by a robot going through his repetitive daily manoeuvres whose only buddy is a cockroach. Although the animators have attempted to “humanise” WOOD-E with expressive “eyes” and limited (very limited) vocal expressions I found it impossible to feel for this mechanical thing. So his dire situation left me entirely unmoved and consequently of little interest.

When EVE comes on the scene things liven up a bit and there are a couple of funny moments, even some tender ones. But that doesn’t last long as we are transported to another world where the producers hammer home their second strong message (about the consequences of a pampered life; their first was about the effects of over consumption) but it goes on far too long. It would be fine if these sequences were novel or funny, but they are neither. In fact there is not one really humorous moment during the entire film.

One thing needs be said though: the technical aspects are simply amazing not only in terms of the images but the sound. However that alone is not reason enough to sit through almost two hours of filmmaking.


At the showing I attended the movie was preceded by Presto, a new Pixar short about a magician and his rabbit. It is amusing and for some (the four or five-year-old crowd) absolutely hilarious. With hindsight, I should have left when it was over.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008



Mathew Beard: 16 or 17-year-old Blake Morrison
Jim Broadbent: his father Arthur, a general practitioner
Juliet Stevenson: his mother Kim, also a physician
Colin Firth: the adult Blake
Gina McKee: Blake’s wife Kathy
Bradley Johnson: 7 or 8-year-old Blake
Sarah Lancashire: Blake’s Aunt Beaty
Claire Skinner: Blake’s sister Gillian
Elaine Cassidy: Sandra, the family's Scottish maid

Using flashbacks that are more than mere snippets of memory is an effective way to develop this story of the relationship between a father and son. The acting is uniformly good but the teenage Blake stands out above the rest. He really nailed it.

The time frame covers the period from Blake’s childhood right up to when he is a published author. Consequently the makeup department had quiet a challenge to age Blake’s parents and his aunt over a span of four decades. They were up to it.

Great attention to detail by the Production Design group is evident in making sure the props and costumes are right for the time-period, even to the point of having the correct expiry date (Dec. ’62) on the decal affixed to the car’s windshield.

By the way, just ignore the title: it makes no sense since the question posed is never really answered. Besides it’s far to long and unwieldy so will never fit within the limited space of movie marquees of today.

for sexual content, thematic material and brief strong language.

Many scenes include a mirror image of the actor. Perhaps that was meant to convey the fact the actor is a mirror image of someone or maybe what he is saying\doing mirrors someone? Never did figure out the significance of this framing technique.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


Original title: Vier Minuten
In German with English subtitles

Robert Schumann (June 1810 – July 1865) was a German composer and influential music critic. His 148 published compositions were, until 1840, all for the piano; he later composed works for piano and orchestra. One of his earliest compositions was the much-liked Carnaval (op. 9, 1834). His Träumerei is one of the most famous piano pieces ever written. Kreisleriana (op. 16, 1838) is considered by many as one of his greatest works.

Monica Bleibtreu: Fräulein Traude Krüger, 80-year-old piano teacher
Hannah Herzsprung: Jenny von Loeben, 20-year-old convict in a women's prison
Stefan Kurt: Direktor Meyerbeer, prison Warden
Sven Pippig: prison guard Mütze

This is one terrific movie combining a well-constructed character study with exceptionally good acting. Movies about relationships too often are so predictable; this one is not. Music is central to the story: there is lots of it including many original pieces along with those composed by Schumann.

Despite the fact some of the flashbacks are a bit confusing this shortcoming does not significantly alter the overall story line. The cinemaphotography is top notch and the editing bang on.

for disturbing images and brief violence.

Fräulein is the German title for unmarried women as opposed to Frau for married women. It is the equilivant of Miss in English.

Monday, June 23, 2008



CONTROL is a fictional covert American intelligence spy agency.
KAOS (pronounced chaos) is the evil crime syndicate of some unnamed Eastern bloc nation. Despite being capitalised, CONTROL and KAOS are not acronyms and do not stand for anything.

Cone of Silence: one of CONTROL's security protocols, this transparent plastic hemisphere was lowered over each speaker; its use is of dubious value.

Steve Carell: Maxwell Smart, a CONTROL analyst aspiring to become a field agent
Dwayne Johnson: superstar Field Agent 23
Alan Arkin: The Chief, head of CONTROL
Terence Stamp: Siegfried, head of KOAS
Anne Hathaway: Agent 99

The Story Editor whose function it is to identify any weaknesses in the script and then make suggestions to the writers for the next draft either did not do his job or his comments were ignored. The result is a convoluted story line that often jumps from one situation to the next without any apparent connection to the preceding scene. The plot does not make a lot of sense and serves mainly to be the rational for including some CGI pyrotechnics.

Relying on more than a few types of humour some of them, such as the slapstick and sarcasm, work better than others. The gross-out scenes and the couple instances of the scatological sort might be offensive to some.

Some of the chase scenes are among the best and the crazy gadgets would be the envy of James Bond (or maybe not?). Overall not a bad movie but it could have been better.

for rude humor, action violence and language.

 Maxwell Smart gets his suit jacket cut up in several places. These slashs come and go with just about every POV change.
 When picked up by the limo, the title-over indicates the time in Washinington D.C. to be 7:30am. This is belied by the strong noon-time shadows beneath the car.
 The folded blanket next to the pillow at the end of the cot moves about pretty much from one scene to the next.
 There is no part for a piano so one would not be in a prominent position on stage for any performance of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 in D minor.

Those who remember the television version of the late ‘60’s will appreciate how close Agents 86 and 99 resemble the originals.

Monday, June 2, 2008



Wade Davis, author, photographer and an outspoken conservationist
His 18-year-old daughter Tara
Environmental activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. (son of Ethel and Robert Kennedy)
His 18-year-old daughter Kick (Kathleen)

Wanting to be more than just another travelogue film, the producers tacked on the subtitle “River at Risk” ostensibly to make us aware of the fact the Colorado River is in trouble. What’s really in trouble is the movie. It is terribly muddled and needs sorting out.

To start with the producers never do spell out what might befall the river; presumably it is at risk of one day disappearing but we should not be going around guessing. Furthermore instead of concentrating on the river, the subject of the film, we are shown examples of global warming including a huge map of Lake Chad in Africa. We know all about that; what we came to see was a movie about the Grand Canyon.

Eventually we get to meet the people who will be our guides, Wade Davis and his daughter. But soon Robert F. Kennedy’s story is interjected and then we flip flop between these two groups until you have no idea what the heck it’s all about.

Until the final credits roll; then we are told about the need to conserve water, to turn off the water while brushing our teeth (yeah right) and to install new low-volume flush toilets. Kohler, the manufacturer of high-end bathroom fixtures is one of the corporate sponsors. I wonder if they had anything to do with that suggestion?

One other thing: there are the requisite big-screen majestic views of the Grand Canyon and a lot of on-board rafting down the Colorado. But pretty pictures themselves are not enough to counterbalance the serious shortcomings in the telling of the story.


The producers got carried away with their new 3D “toy” and consequently subject us to repetitive images of CGI water droplets encapsulating the opening credits streaming towards us. We know it’s a 3D movie; there’s no need to hammer the point home